Monday, October 14, 2013

How Anonymous could save a young girl's life

Earlier today a colleague sent me a link to a story published two days ago in the Kansas City Star. It was an investigative piece looking into why charges had been dropped in a local case involving the rape of two girls, aged thirteen and fourteen. It appeared to be an open and shut case, with positive evidence from a rape kit and confessions from the rapists, who were two older boys in the community. And yet, the case, without much explanation, was simply dropped.

There were secondary charges of misdemeanor child endangerment, as the boys had deposited one of the girls, who had passed out, on her family's front porch in the middle of the night. She was left out all night, in sub-freezing weather, until her mother found her there the next morning. Those charges were also dropped.

I won't go into all the details of the case, but I will mention that one of the accused was a football star and came from a prominent family in the small town of Maryville, Missouri, where the crimes took place. He is grandson of former mayor and current Republican State Representative, Max Barnett. The backlash against the victims and their families has been harrowing. It's Steubenville all over again.

You can read the Star story here. It's a sobering read, I'll warn you.Our local public radio station, KCUR, also aired a story on the case last year. 

The Star story, however, was picked up by Gawker and widely shared on public media. And today, the hacktivist group Anonymous put out a statement that Maryville, Missouri, was it's next target.

I have mixed feelings about the group Anonymous, but I have to say I was a bit thrilled to read this. My first thought, when I read their statement, was for the girl at the center of the case. 

Daisy Coleman, the fourteen-year-old raped and left on the front porch, has had a really rough year. Formerly an outgoing girl who was a cheerleader, she has withdrawn from all activities, begun cutting herself and made several suicide attempts. She has been targeted on social media and ostracized at school.




Everyone around her, from her classmates to the prosecutor's office to the town at large, has basically told her that she doesn't matter. Her suffering means nothing.


Daisy Coleman - you matter very much


This, more than anything else, gets to me. It is such a familiar story. What is shocking and tragic and inhumane is treated as if it is normal. A horrific narrative is erased, rewritten, completely re-crafted until the original story is obscured.

Despite the testimony from the rapists themselves that they had pressed alcohol on the girls, that one was crying and the other saying "No no no" repeatedly, it is written off as teenagers having consensual sex. Even the prosecutor on the case (who made the decision to drop charges) referred to it as a "case of incorrigible teenagers drinking alcohol and having sex."

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/12/4549775/nightmare-in-maryville-teens-sexual.html#storylink=cpy

How many times do we have to have this conversation? Children cannot consent to sex. It's called rape.

This is hard enough for a full grown man or woman to process. But a child? How does a child stand in the face of such treatment and hold on to any sense of self? To any belief in herself?

I was nine years old when I was sexually assaulted. I didn't tell my parents because I believed what I had been told -- that it was my fault. But lucky for me, my brother did tell. I was there in the room when they found out and I saw their emotional reaction. My mother crying and my father yelling into the phone and threatening the life of this man. I think they later regretted that all this played out in front of me, but what they didn't realize was that their emotional response was exactly what saved me. It helped me to realize that this man had manipulated me and that what he did was very, very wrong. It was validating and freeing. It put everything into perspective and, I'm certain, was an integral part of my healing.

A similar thing happened three years ago when I wrote about my experiences with domestic violence. The response from readers was so overwhelmingly supportive and affirming that it helped me shift my perspective, which had been clouded by living with someone who was abusive. It recalibrated me and helped me to re-ground myself in my own truth.

With Anonymous taking on this case, it will become an international story. This small town with its narrow views and cronyism will be brought to its knees, as it should. But one thing the widespread publicity has the potential to do, is to offer to this young girl another perspective on what happened. One that is rooted in truth and clarity and compassion. One that acknowledges that what happened was indeed a horror. One that validates her own experience and frees her from blame.

It will continue to be a rough ride for her, but I hope she hangs on through all of it. It has the potential to shift her perspective on this whole mess of lies and offer her liberation. It could very well save her life.







26 comments:

  1. Thank you for putting words to the sentiment a lot of us feel. I have my own post coming, but right now I simply cannot address this without the heartbreak and rage I feel clouding my writing. On second thought, perhaps I shouldn't wait.

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    1. There's a tremendous amount of heightened emotion around this case. I think (hope), as a society, we are losing our tolerance for this sort of thing. It's heartbreaking.

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  2. I feel so sorry for Daisy and her Mum and brothers/sisters - this family has been through hell after losing their father/husband in a tragic accident. And now they are being put through hell a second time and forced to flee the place they retreated to in order to start afresh.

    It is NEVER the victims fault, ever, regardless of the circumstances and I think it's about time people stopped victim shaming because it's just wrong. Daisy did nothing wrong. Yes she snuck out of the house, yes she indulged in alcohol underage but so do most teenagers but that doesn't mean they are "asking to be raped", I was disgusted when I read that comment from someone suggesting the very thing.

    Having someone famous or powerful or political in your family or life, should not mean that you can get away with blue murder, it should not mean that the law does not apply to you and it should not mean that you do not feel the hard slap of that law should you do something wrong.

    I hope that Daisy is supported and that Anonymous bring the case enough coverage that justice is finally served, hopefully delivered cold.

    p.s. That image of the tweet above is disturbing, not only because of the words contained in it BUT because it was written by a female.

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    1. Yes, there's a lot more to this story. Their father's death, the burning down of their house. One wonders how much one family can endure. I hope this brings them some closure and healing.

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  3. excellently put. thank you!

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  4. I only read the story you link to this morning and was horrified. I hope the perpetrators are brought to their knees and that Daisy and everyone else affected is able to resume a reasonably normal life.

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  5. Thanks for bringing it to our attention! Thanks to Anonymous for taking up her plight!

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    1. I wonder how long it will take them to uncover something. Very curious how this will play out.

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  6. This makes me so angry. That voice in my head is screaming: what about the victim? What about the victim? In our punishment driven culture the needs of the victim are constantly overlooked, ignored or are assumed to be served (or not) by the corruptible wheels of the law. That isn't right.

    These poor girls matter. Their voices matter. Their hurt matters. A society that allows this type of thing to happen without attempting to change itself as a consequence owes them big time.

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    1. I agree, Steve. The justice system is all about the accused and how he/she should be treated. The victim is left to fend for him/herself. This needs to change.

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  7. I just want to punch someone, in fact many someones, how can they get it so wrong.

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    1. It's infuriating, isn't it? It just defies any reason.

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  8. This is so unbelievable. It is appalling. EVEN after the guys ADMITTED to it. WTF?

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    1. You know, when I see this sort of thing it always raises questions for me about the behavior of the adults involved. What is their own history, if they can so easily justify what happened and write it off as normal?

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  10. Reposting since the link did not seem to come through correctly. Did you see the NPR piece.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/10/08/230428115/many-teens-admit-to-coercing-others-into-sex

    It's rather disturbing to say the least.

    Thank you for bringing this up. This simply cannot go on!!!

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    1. Wow, that is a disturbing read. "When asked who was to blame, half of the perpetrators said the victim was completely responsible." Just...wow.

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  11. Did you see this... she is not only amazingly brave but she is my hero... http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/daisy-coleman-maryville-rape

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  12. This is disgusting and I hope a further investigation takes place, if the victims desire that and can withstand it.

    "Children cannot consent to sex. It's called rape."

    Not referencing this case, but you mean that if two teens do have consensual sex it is called rape?



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  13. "Since Anonymous has gotten involved, everything has changed. #justice4Daisy has trended on the Internet, and pressure has come down hard on the authorities who thought they could hide what really happened."

    Good news.

    "I not only survived, I didn't give up. I've been told that a special prosecutor is going to reopen the case now."

    This is great news. According to her article the "authorities" had said the video had never been found while her brother said it had made the rounds at school. Its still out there somewhere.

    "I just hope more men will take a lesson from my brothers. They look out for women. They don't prey on them."

    Now here's a major problem with our thinking. Matt and boys/men like him cannot take a lesson from her brothers because Matt and men like him are sociopaths. Sociopaths do not and cannot change. That's why all these campaigns to "teach men not to rape" do not work. Basically they are preaching to the choir in the first place, men who are not rapists, not sociopaths. The men who ARE rapists and sociopaths cannot change, no matter how many times they sit through an awareness seminar.

    That's why I support life in prison for rapists, and dare I say it, perhaps even the death penalty.

    (continued below)



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  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Hi Anon, I chose to delete your last comment here, due to the graphic nature of the quotes you included. I understand and appreciate your point that sexually violent material is available, to the detriment of our teens, all over the web. However, I don't appreciate having that content replicated here on my website. Thank you for your understanding.

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    2. No problem. I understand.

      "Children cannot consent to sex. It's called rape."

      "Not referencing this case, but you mean that if two teens do have consensual sex it is called rape?"

      That was my question. I do wonder what you meant by that.

      Whenever I read about these teen to teen rape cases I think our society has gotten to the point where we are too trusting and we are instilling that trust in our children - to their detriment. Although Daisy did say that her brother tried to warn her about Matt and would not have "allowed" her to go out with him had he known, she did not heed that advice because she was too trusting.

      Its a shame that we have to raise our children with the understand that the world is often an unsafe place, but it is.

      I really think we should bring back chaperoned dating.

      Heck, I even think we need to teach our kids not to entirely trust their own family members, which is particularly saddening.

      Someone mentioned the warnings to kids about "stranger danger" and how to "tell a trusted adult" if something you've experienced felt uncomfortable to you, but sometimes its a "trusted adult" who is the danger.

      With child porn reaching epidemic proportions, there is no way we should go on teaching our children to trust anyone or anything.


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    3. I was referring to cases such as this, where someone of legal age has sex with someone underage. Technically, it's rape, regardless of whether there is consent.

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    4. Yes, so that is why I'm confused as to why this guy Matt was not charged for statutory rape at the very least.

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